Monday, August 13, 2012

Oh, Those Hot High School Cheerleaders! "Kissin' Tell" by Lorelei James

She once led him around by a string. Now he’s the one holding the reins.

Georgia Hotchkiss swore wild horses couldn’t drag her back to Sundance, Wyoming. So it’s ironic she’s forced to take a rodeo PR job in her former hometown—right before her ten-year class reunion. The only thing worse than facing her cheating ex-husband and his pregnant wife? Showing up to the reunion without a date. Fate smiles on her when she runs into her former classmate and current cowboy hottie Tell McKay. With his infectious smile and fun-loving ways—not to mention his banging body—he’s the perfect solution to her problem.

Tell McKay had it so bad for Hot Lips Hotchkiss during high school that he let her run roughshod over him. But he is no longer that easily manipulated boy—these days he’s earned a reputation with the ladies that lives up to the McKay last name. He agrees to escort her to the reunion with one stipulation; that Georgia proves she has left behind the goody-goody cheerleader of the past—by sharing his bed.

Their sexual chemistry flashes so bright, they barely notice that the reunion has come and gone, and now they’re tangled up in another dreaded “R” word—relationship. But if Tell wants to get the girl this go-around, he’ll have to come up with a whole new set of knots to tie up her heartstrings.

There are few authors who can manage an extended series embracing a family tree as extensive as the McKay Clan of Sundance, Wyoming, but Lorelei James is one of them.  Some readers are not necessarily continuing on with these "Rough Riders" books, but I am delighted each time I see a new one show up for my eReader.  We have been introduced to difficulties experienced by the sons of Joan and Casper McKay, both now living their own lives following their messy and hurtful divorce.  Yet their divorce was no more hurtful than their marriage and the effect it had on all their sons.  With Luke's death (which was spoken of in Cam McKay's story), the remaining three sons--Brandt, Tell, and Dalton--must now make their own way as each is effectively estranged from their father, a man who is now sober but is just as mean and judgmental.  Tell is the son who has picked up the pieces for everyone else.  Brandt and Jessie are involved with the arrival of their first son.  Dalton is off doing his thing, trying to live up to the "Lothario" label that has become the norm for the McKay men.  Tell is the one who takes on the extra chores, baby sits Luke's illegitimate son when no one else can take him, and still tries to manage to carve out a life for himself.  Seeing his old flame, Georgia Hotchkiss in a  Sundance establishment was so far from anything he had ever expected.

Some reviewers have found difficulty with the childishness of the communication or lack thereof between these two.  Yet they were now adults who were still trying to resurrect a kind of connection that had been very problematic a decade before in high school.  Tell was the guy that quietly made very good grades in school and whose crush on Georgia was the weakness she exploited whenever she needed something done that no one else would do.  Now he was a genuine cowboy "hottie" and Georgia really didn't know how to handle that.  Georgia had been the cheerleading "queen" and had been the girl all the guys drooled over from afar.  Now she was still a looker, but she had a woman's body instead of a teenager, and she was single, mourning the death of her twin brother still, and trying to figure out how to relate to people who clearly thought little of her these days.  It was a relationship that had a ton of potential emotional potholes just waiting to complicate the path to true love.  It was very definitely a serious and sometimes difficult learning experience for each of these people and while they burned up the sheets together, their individual insecurities often got in the way of caring and affection that was beginning to grow up between them.

As always, I think Ms James wants her readers to see each of her characters against the backdrop of a contemporary Western community and an extended family that is deeply involved in one another's lives but which is struggling to acknowledge each family member as a viable individual as they grow up.  Within that framework, each of her characters must work out their own issues, resolve their own conflicts, address their own insecurities and find their own sense of self and place in the world, the community, and the family.  So while this novel is very much about Tell and Georgia's up/down love affair, it is also about a growing up experience they each must do and that learning and growing influences their relationship to each other as well as to their wider family.  One of the most critical scenes for Tell, IMHO, is when he must finally let his mom know that he is not always available at the drop of a hat to make everyone else's plans work.  He has his own life and he begins to learn how to say "no."  Not an easy lesson for many of us to learn.

This is an engaging novel and one that is full of color, grit, hot loving, and the reality of human living.  I make no secret that I really love this series and am looking forward to and hoping for Dalton and Gavin's stories in the future.  I give this novel a rating of 4.5 out of 5.

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